(Retrieved from Daily Star website)
|The Daily Star|
BEIRUT: A car bomb killed at least 21 people and wounded 250 in the southern suburb of Beirut Thursday, Lebanese officials said, and security sources said investigators are looking into accounts the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber.
The evening attack, which the Lebanese Army confirmed was a car bomb, occurred in the neighborhood of Ruwaiss, a Hezbollah stronghold, as residents had been returning home from their businesses.
Security sources earlier put the death toll at 22.
Lebanon has seen a spike of security incidents linked to the crisis in neighboring Syria, particularly after Hezbollah said in May it was fighting with forces loyal to President Bashar Assad against rebels there.
The sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said investigators are looking at witness reports that a suicide bomber detonated the car in the middle the road.
Panic and urgency prevailed at the site of the explosion, which sent plumes of smoke in the Beirut sky that could be seen from miles away.
People trapped in burning buildings cried out for help from windows.
As ambulances arrived, people from the neighborhood helped firefighters carry hoses and buckets of water to put out the flames engulfing nearby cars and buildings.
The Lebanese Red Cross said it dispatched 15 ambulances as part of its response and was coordinating with other organizations to evacuate residents.
Locals voiced mixed reactions to the explosive that left extensive damage in its wake.
Iman Jabak, 43 ,and her two daughters Rawane Charara and Reine Charara were out shopping for clothes for their little brother when the blast occurred.
According to Reine, Hezbollah had upped security to the maximum since attacks on the suburbs.
“We’re used to it,” Reine, 18, told The Daily Star. “They promised us more and we’re ready,” she added in reference to Hezbollah’s foes.
While the two sisters were acting cool about it, their mother wasn’t as composed. Their house, located close to the blast, was in good shape except for some shattered glass.
Unlike her daughters, Iman Jabbak was tense and stuttering.
“We will never get used to it,” she said. “We are sick of all this.”
A previously unheard of group calling itself the “Brigade of Aisha, the Mother of the Faithful” claimed responsibility for the attack.
This is the second car bombing attack to target a neighborhood seen as a Hezbollah stronghold in the Lebanese capital in less than two months.
On July 9, over 50 people were wounded after a car blast ripped through the Bir al-Abed neighborhood.
Four people were also wounded in a twin rocket attack on Shiyah in the southern suburb in May. That attack came hours after Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah confirmed his group was fighting alongside Assad’s forces.
Political and religious figures of various stripes condemned Thursday’s car bombing, with many hinting or directly accusing Israel of being behind the attack.
Nasrallah claimed Wednesday Hezbollah fighters had been responsible for last week’s wounding of several Israeli soldiers who crossed the border into Lebanon. The Hezbollah chief said explosives remotely detonated by his fighters had led to the Israeli casualties.
He vowed his group would not hesitate to take similar actions in the future. - With additional reporting by Brooke Anderson
Beirut blast death toll rises, suicide bomber suspected
August 16, 2013 09:47 AM (Last updated: August 16, 2013 07:31 PM)
BEIRUT: Authorities are considering the possibility a suicide bomber may have been behind a car bombing in Beirut’s southern suburb, caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said Friday, as the death toll from the deadly blast rose to 24.
“The initial hypothesis is that the blast was the work of a suicide [bomber] due the presence of a car in the middle of the road,” Charbel said, adding that CCTV footage would help determine what happened.
The other possibility, Charbel told Voice of Lebanon, is that the car was detonated remotely.
A car bomb ripped through the southern suburb neighborhood of Ruwaiss Thursday evening, causing many casualties and extensive damage in the area. Like a previous car bomb in the southern suburb of Bir al-Abed in July, Thursday’s attack is believed to be linked to the crisis in neighboring Syria.
A security source, who spoke to The Daily Star on condition of anonymity, confirmed Charbel’s assessment, saying a suicide bomber was the most plausible theory, citing reports the vehicle exploded in the middle of the street and had not been parked at the time of the blast.
This varied from the July bombing in the Hezbollah stronghold of Bir al-Abed, where the vehicle used was in a stationary position.
But the source said there were conflicting witness reports concerning the suspect bomber, with some saying they saw a man blow himself up after exiting the vehicle while others stating the man had been driving the car when it exploded.
The source said remains of body parts that have yet to be identified were located at the blast site.
According to the source, a black BMW was used in the bombing and contained some 60 kilograms of TNT mixed with C4, a highly flammable plastic explosive.
Lebanese Red Cross official Iyad Munzer told The Daily Star at least 300 people were wounded in the bombing, which ripped through the commercial and residential neighborhood in the evening peak hour.
Deputy Commissioner at the Military Tribunal Judge Sami Sader inspected the site of the explosion and ordered it be sealed off except for forensic teams and bomb experts.
Caretaker Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi said judicial experts are “carefully analyzing” a video posted on YouTube of a previously unknown group that claimed responsibility for the bombing.
A group calling itself the “Brigade of Aisha, the Mother of the Faithful” threatened further attacks against what they called “Iranian colonies” in Lebanon.
An urgent meeting was convened at Beiteddine, the president’s summer residence, to address the security situation in the country.
“The [High Defense] Council discussed the perils resulting from terrorist acts moving from one area to another,” Maj. Gen. Mohammad Kheir, the general-secretary of the Council said following the meeting.
Kheir said the participants listened to facts presented by senior security officials regarding the recent car bombings and rocket attacks in Lebanon.
Earlier in the day, Charbel said the meeting would look into a plan to protect Beirut’s southern suburbs after the deadly car explosion.
Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati announced Friday a day of mourning for the Ruwaiss victims.
Seven people remain unaccounted for: Saleh Abbas; his three children, Mohammad, Maryam and Malak; as well as Mohammad Jaber, Jad Ali Jaafar and Mohammad Mhaydelli.
Relatives of the missing have been asked to undergo DNA tests to help identify remains found at the crime scene.
The interior minister said no arrests have been made in the case.